Plaza Dedication 

Payne Plaza

On Homecoming weekend, the plaza area on the southwest corner of MU’s Agriculture Building was dedicated in honor of Vice Chancellor and Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural (CAFNR) Tom Payne, and his wife Alice.


Payne, his son and daughter-in-law Jacob and Caroline and grandkids Jack and Jennifer —  joined a crowd of friends and campus well-wishers at the event.


“This is a huge honor and was totally unexpected,” Payne said of the dedication. “What makes it really special is that my wife’s name is on it. She did so much for the University that people might not know about.”


Payne said he regretted that Alice was not able to join him for the recognition. He explained that she has late-stage Alzheimer’s and is living in a professional care community where he visits her daily. 


“It was just a new chapter in our lives,” he said. “Alice is still very social and as sweet as can be.


Payne began his career as a forestry entomologist at Texas A&M University. He served as an administrator at both Virginia Tech and The Ohio State before beginning his 18-year career with Mizzou.


“I miss the variety and all of the fantastic interactions I had at MU,” Payne said. “CAFNR had all the traditional things but also had bio-chemistry, various research farms, an animal science program that pioneered pig-to-human organ transplants and so much more. I could start the morning talking with students or faculty and be speaking with business leaders in the evening.


“Agriculture is the biggest industry in Missouri,” he said. “I worked closely with politicians. Friday of the first week I was there, [then Senator] Kit Bond wanted to visit me in my office.”


That meeting resulted in a $15 million investment that launched MU’s Life Sciences Center, which was named in honor of Missouri’s long-time senator.


“I miss helping people and solving problems,” Payne added.


“Tom Payne transformed CAFNR into the powerhouse it is today,” Director of Landscape Services and Mizzou Botanic Garden Pete Millier said. 


MIllier said the plaza’s original landscape design came from a 2009 capstone design class challenge. Everyone in the class developed a concept for the space and Justin Lacewell’s design was selected and adopted after a slight tweaking by then-MUBG Architect John Glenn. Lacewell received a $1,000 scholarship for his efforts.


“Pete is phenomenal,’” Payne said in reference to the effort. “When I came, the Ag Building looked like a mausoleum. I wanted to get something done and managed to get some funding and Pete helped us do it. To me, he is a remarkable individual that doesn’t get enough recognition. I appreciate everything he’s done. The University looks so much better because of him and his crew.”


Millier agreed that their shared projects had positive and beneficial results.


“Dean Payne helped us repurpose an old scholarship into an internship between CAFNR and Landscape Services,” Millier said. “He was always a willing and helpful partner in all efforts to improve the landscape.”


Millier noted the significance of the granite slabs used for the dedication marker, which were former steps of Memorial Union.


Additionally, MUBG’s current landscape designer, Zach Ignotz, did a colored rendering of the plaza that was framed and presented to Payne at the dedication.


“Tom and Alice were great supporters of the Mizzou Botanic Garden, whenever called upon to help.  For that support, I am grateful,” Millier said in his remarks at the dedication.


Current CAFNR Dean, Chris Daubert, welcomed the gathering and shared highlights of Payne’s time at Mizzou, including the creation of student entrepreneurial opportunities, increased outreach events, and his statewide agricultural collaborations.


“Together, you and Alice brought excitement to CAFNR,” Daubert said. “As one of the busiest corners on campus,” he continued, “this spot really is the perfect location to recognize your impact and legacy for CAFNR and Mizzou.


“Dean Payne, thank you for all you’ve done for CAFNR, Daubert said. “It would not be the vibrant and collaborative community it is today if not for your enthusiastic leadership for nearly two decades.”


Payne said there are not enough words to express his appreciation for the plaza memorial.


“I’m grateful to the dean, the college, the campus and the curators of this University for this honor.”

Payne Plaza Dedication, October 20, 2023